Mar 022015
 

The post Visiting Inspector of the Dead: The Magnificent Crystal Palace appeared first on Mulholland Books.

David Morrell’s Inspector of the Dead is set on the harrowing streets of 1855 London. A gripping Victorian mystery/thriller, its vivid historical details come from years of research. Here are photo essays that David prepared about the novel’s fascinating locations. Read the first post about Mayfair and Belgravia, the second post about Constitution Hillthe third post about Lord Palmerston’s House, and the fourth post about Jay’s Mourning Warehouse.

The first world’s fair took place in London in 1851. Championed by Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert, it demonstrated the might and majesty of the British Empire. Officially called the Great Exhibition, it quickly became known as the Crystal Palace exhibition because of the amazing building in which it occurred.Crystal1

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Essentially a large greenhouse, the Crystal Palace was composed of 900,000 square feet of glass plates secured in a wrought-iron framework. It occupied a massive fifty-eight acres of Hyde Park and stretched twelve stories high, so tall that full-grown elm trees were left in place as interior landscaping.

Crystal3

So vast was the space that two huge organs, two hundred other instruments, and six hundred singers could barely be heard when the queen and Prince Albert attended the opening ceremony. Inspector of the Dead dramatizes that ceremony and a fateful historical incident that happened there, involving a real-life mysterious figure who emerged from the crowd and approached the queen.

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When the world’s fair ended in October of 1851, the Crystal Palace was disassembled and recreated at Sydenham Hill, a semi-rural area south of the Thames.

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There it remained, in a gradually deteriorating condition until fire destroyed it in 1936.

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The post Visiting Inspector of the Dead: The Magnificent Crystal Palace appeared first on Mulholland Books.

Feb 172015
 

The post Visiting Inspector of the Dead: Jay’s Mourning Warehouse appeared first on Mulholland Books.

David Morrell’s Inspector of the Dead is set on the harrowing streets of 1855 London. A gripping Victorian mystery/thriller, its vivid historical details come from years of research. Here are photo essays that David prepared about the novel’s fascinating locations. Read the first post about Mayfair and Belgravia, the second post about Constitution Hill, and the third post about Lord Palmerston’s House.

Victorian society was preoccupied about death, obeying elaborate rules about how to react to it. A grieving family was expected to put on severe mourning garments immediately after a loved one died and remain at home for several weeks following the funeral—except for a widow who stayed at home, in the blackest of clothes, for a year and a day.

JaysMourningHouse1

The link between grief and clothes inspired an entrepreneur, W.C. Jay, to create Jay’s Mourning Warehouse in 1841, selling bereavement garments of every type and size.

JaysMourningWarehouse2

Jay began with one address on fashionable Regent Street, but the death business became so brisk that he expanded into the shop next door. By the 1850s, he had expanded the business so often that it occupied most of the block.

JaysMourningWarehouse3

The most extreme case of grief involved Queen Victoria, who was one of Jay’s customers. Following the death of her husband, Prince Albert, in 1861, the queen dressed in mourning for the next forty years. In Inspector of the Dead, Jay’s warehouse and his funereal garments play a major role in the story.

The post Visiting Inspector of the Dead: Jay’s Mourning Warehouse appeared first on Mulholland Books.

Feb 022015
 

The post Visiting Inspector of the Dead: Eerie Lord Palmerston’s House appeared first on Mulholland Books.

David Morrell’s Inspector of the Dead is set on the harrowing streets of 1855 London. A gripping Victorian mystery/thriller, its vivid historical details come from years of research. Here are photo essays that David prepared about the novel’s fascinating locations. Read the first post about Mayfair and Belgravia, and the second post about Constitution Hill.

During the 1800s, Lord Palmerston (nicknamed Lord Cupid because of his numerous love affairs) was one of the most powerful English politicians: a war secretary, foreign secretary, home secretary, and prime minister.

palmerston1

His famous Mayfair house, where he welcomed London’s rich and powerful, is located across from Green Park on Piccadilly. It’s readily identified because it’s the only Piccadilly property that’s set back from the street. The two gates and the curved driveway make it easy to recognize.

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In 1850, the residence was known as Cambridge House because Queen Victoria’s uncle, the Duke of Cambridge, owned it. On 27 June, the queen visited him and attracted so much attention that by the time she emerged from the house, a considerable crowd blocked the street, preventing her carriage from leaving.

One member of the crowd, Robert Francis Pate, was more interested in walking onward than looking at the queen. Angry that his way was blocked, he pushed his way toward the royal carriage, raised his cane, and struck Queen Victoria across the forehead. Shockingly, he drew blood. (For the full scene, preorder Inspector of the Dead.) Pate was the fifth man to threaten the queen. Declared as insane as it’s possible for a sane person to be, he was exiled to Van Diemen’s Land (present day Tasmania).

palmerston3

After the Duke of Cambridge died, Lord Palmerston bought the property, which continued to be known as Cambridge House. Following Lord Palmerston’s death in 1865, it was acquired by the Naval and Military Club, which placed traffic-direction signs—IN at one gate and OUT at the other—causing the property to be nicknamed the In and Out Club. If you look closely at the initial photograph of Cambridge House, you can see the modern versions of the signs. Also, note how different the front wall looked in 1850 compared to now.

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Deserted since the 1990s, Cambridge House fell into disrepair. Although two billionaire brothers announced their intention to renovate it for £214 million and make it the most expensive residential property in London, repairs had not begun as of early 2014, and the ghost of Lord Palmerston seemed to haunt it.

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Beyond a fence on the opposite side of Piccadilly, this is the spectacular view of Green Park that Lord Palmerston would have enjoyed. The middle path leads down to Buckingham Palace. In Murder as a Fine Art, Thomas De Quincey flees for his life through this park.

The post Visiting Inspector of the Dead: Eerie Lord Palmerston’s House appeared first on Mulholland Books.

Jan 212015
 

The post In Conversation with Douglas Purdy about Serpents in the Cold appeared first on Mulholland Books.

Serpents in the Cold by Thomas O'Malley and Douglas PurdyThe first novel in Thomas O’Malley and Douglas Purdy’s Boston Saga, Serpents in the Cold, has just been published by Mulholland Books. Kirkus Reviews calls it a “bone-crunching, gut-wrenching novel . . . It delivers noir fiction like we always want it to be.” Click here to read an excerpt from the book.

Mulholland Books: Tell us how you two decided to partner up to write Serpents in the Cold.

Douglas Purdy: Twenty years ago, Tom and I met at the UMass-Boston campus along the grey-slate waters of the Boston Harbor. Fittingly enough, it was for a class on Detective and Crime Fiction. Later in a creative-writing workshop, Tom began writing “The Iscariot Kiss,” his protagonist named Cal O’Brien, and I started working on “The Wooden Man,” featuring a desperate junky, Dante Cooper. Over pints of Guinness one night, we sat in the corner of a pub, The Field (Cambridge, Mass) and discussed what would happen if O’Brien and Cooper were to meet on the same page. At one point we had them in Los Angeles, another time in some nameless Gothic city. Years later, we decided it was finally time to have Cooper & O’Brien team up—and not in any other city but our own, Boston. We were in Cape Cod, and Tom and I came up with the opening scene on Tenean Beach, a beach that my mother used to go to in the 1940s, and one that Tom went to when visiting Boston from overseas. During that meeting, we asked ourselves, “Who is this woman [found dead on the beach], Sheila?” And from that point on, we explored this dark world of 1951 Boston and decided that the novel had to take place during one of the worst winters on record. For over the next four years and countless pages, we finished Serpents in the Cold. We hoped that it not only served the genre well, but also our city. Boston is both Cal and Dante, two men who could not have come from any other place in America.

Mulholland: Tell us more about Cal O’Brien and Dante Cooper, the central characters who drive the investigation in Serpents in the Cold.

Purdy: For me, reading David Goodis, Jim Thompson, and Dashiell Hammett’s The Glass Key really shaped the dark place Dante was coming from. I knew that Dante wouldn’t exist in the modern world—he’d probably be an obituary in the first few chapters. His era had to be the 1940s or 1950s, wearing a beat-up fedora, dirty gabardine slacks, a penchant for jazz and junk, a fragment of the man he was before the overdose of his wife, Margo. He was interesting to me because he is one who skirts the underworld, the pool halls and flophouses where the lecherous and the downtrodden live—all while representing some form of righteousness that may or may not lead to some redemption in the end. Cal is an ex-cop, and he’s a war veteran. He comes from a different place, but still a place where violence is prevalent, and with their shared past, we thought they’d be a unique duo with many stories to tell.

Wintry Boston in the 1950sMulholland: Aside from your personal ties to Boston, why did you choose to set Serpents in the Cold in such a particular time and place? 

Purdy: I think some crime novels lack a full sense of atmosphere, and it was important to both Tom and I to create a rich, layered one for this novel. We wanted an atmosphere that also had an isolated feel to it, and how more isolated can you get than the cold and the snow, the worst winter on record? Also, Boston as a city is not known for being overly kind. It has a hard-knuckled introspective manner to it, uniquely Northeastern. So it’s a perfect place for ambiguity and deception, a locale where corruption and violence can take effect. Not only does the oppressive weather augment the claustrophobic elements in tandem with the damaged psyches of the characters, but it also paints a widescreen cinematic effect. Boston is a beautiful city, but by the winter, a gray pallor seems to suck the life out of the streets. The waters turn to slate, the skies turn raw and bleak, and the collective moods of the population sour and become downright miserable.

Mulholland: What was it like to co-write a novel?

Purdy: Collaborating with a friend is equal parts excitement and hard work. Writers are solitary creatures, so I wouldn’t recommend two writer friends going into a novel together, unless they have a strong grasp of the book before starting on Chapter One. There were times when we wanted to put out a hit on one another, but in the end, such disagreements only pushed us to work harder at solving a difficult chapter. We scrapped scenes, took them back out in the alley and put a few bullets in their heads, and then buried them without thinking of them ever again. Other times, a chapter floundered and one of us would come in and breathe new life into it. There was plenty of “pitching” involved, and like any Hollywood meeting, we sometimes responded to each other’s proposals with laughter or dismay. In the end, one of the biggest positives was that when one of us was down, the other would be there to get the fire stoked again, a crucial plus as both Tom and I continue to write Cal & Dante novels in our “Boston Saga.”

The post In Conversation with Douglas Purdy about Serpents in the Cold appeared first on Mulholland Books.

Jan 032015
 

The post Visiting Inspector of the Dead: The Killing Ground of Constitution Hill appeared first on Mulholland Books.

David Morrell’s Inspector of the Dead is set on the harrowing streets of 1855 London. A gripping Victorian mystery/thriller, its vivid historical details come from years of research. Here are photo essays that David prepared about the novel’s fascinating locations. Read the first post about Mayfair and Belgravia.

Almost every day for many years, Queen Victoria’s schedule included a carriage ride at 6 p.m. Her timetable was printed in London’s newspapers. Her route was usually the same. The carriage left Buckingham Palace, turned left onto Constitution Hill, rode up to Hyde Park, veered left into the park, came back to Constitution Hill, and returned to the Palace.

Constitution1

This is Constitution Hill as it appears today. Buckingham Palace is to the left, out of sight.

Constitution2

In the 1840s, four men took advantage of Queen Victoria’s predictable schedule and shot at her from this approximate spot. In fact, one of them (Edward Oxford) shot at her twice, and another (John Francis) tried to shoot at her two days in a row. All told, from 1840 to 1882, seven men tried to attack her.

Constitution3

The first attacker was Edward Oxford. In this 1840 watercolor, Oxford stands next to the horse on the right, aiming one of his two pistols. Note the spiked fence and Green Park in the background. The fence has a prominent role in Inspector of the Dead.

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This alternate, highly romanticized watercolor of Edward Oxford’s attack shows his second pistol (in his left hand). Prince Albert did not try to shield Queen Victoria as this depiction indicates. Beyond the commotion, note the Palace wall on the opposite side of Constitution Hill. Like the spiked fence at Green Park, that wall has an important role in Inspector of the Dead.

Constitution5

The second man to shoot at Queen Victoria was John Francis in 1842. This crude newspaper engraving pretends to be a depiction of the event, but it is actually a clumsy recreation of one of the watercolors showing Edward Oxford’s attempt.

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The fourth man to shoot at Queen Victoria was William Hamilton in 1849. Again, note the spiked fence on one side of Constitution Hill and the Palace wall on the opposite side.

The fifth man to attack Queen Victoria was Robert Francis Pate in 1850. The event occurred outside Lord Palmerston’s famous house on Piccadilly. For an engraving of that attack, please stay tuned for the final photo essay in this series.

The post Visiting Inspector of the Dead: The Killing Ground of Constitution Hill appeared first on Mulholland Books.

Dec 222014
 

The post Visiting Inspector of the Dead: Mayfair and Belgravia appeared first on Mulholland Books.

David Morrell’s Inspector of the Dead is set on the harrowing streets of 1855 London. A gripping Victorian mystery/thriller, its vivid historical details come from years of research. Here are photo essays that David prepared about the novel’s fascinating locations.

Much of Inspector of the Dead takes place in London’s wealthy Mayfair district. Ironically, in the 1600s, it was a disreputable field where drunken May Day (or May Fair) celebrations were held. By the 1700s, as London expanded westward, Mayfair became a fashionable area, its impressive residences acquiring a uniform look because of the Portland stone that was used to construct them.

Mayfair1

This is Half Moon Street, off a major street known as Piccadilly. In the novel, several shocking murders occur in one of these magnificent buildings.

By the 1820s, an even wealthier area became fashionable. Located southwest of Buckingham Palace, Belgravia sounds like a mythical kingdom in an operetta, but in fact, the name derives from the aristocratic Belgrave family, who developed the area. Its adjacent white-stuccoed houses rivaled those of Mayfair, with the added luxury that the streets were wider. Many of the buildings now function as embassies.

Mayfair2

This is the Chester Square section of Belgravia. The shaded area contains a garden. Commissioner Mayne, co-founder of London’s Metropolitan Police, lived here. In Inspector of the Dead, he fights for his life in one of these splendid buildings.

The post Visiting Inspector of the Dead: Mayfair and Belgravia appeared first on Mulholland Books.

Nov 112014
 

The post Mulholland Books at Bouchercon 2014 appeared first on Mulholland Books.

Bouchercon 2014 Bouchercon has always been one of the highlights of my year, but this year, I’m especially excited because 1.) it’s November 2.) Bouchercon will be beachside 3.) …in southern California, where it’s currently sunny and 70 degrees. SOLD!

I’m also excited about the wonderful programming lined up for this year. Mulholland’s authors are on panels that touch upon every corner of the mystery world: comics, noir, cyberspace, film and TV, political thrillers…you name it, one of our favorite authors is talking about it. You can find a handy list of our authors’ events below.

But first, a little advice: on Saturday morning, between 7:30am and 12:30pm, head to the Bouchercon hospitality suite in the Seaview Rotunda, because coffee and pastries are on us. If you time it just right, you’ll walk away with a free galley of a forthcoming Mulholland book!

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 13

11:30-12:30 Crime Goes Visual: Graphic and Comic Novels with Duane Swierczynski, author of the Charlie Hardie series and Canary (Regency B)

4-5 Noir Comes in Many Flavors with Chris Holm, author of The Killing Kind (Regency C)

5:30-6:30 Noir at the Bar with Duane Swierczynski and Chris Holm (Regency C)

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 14

10-11 Masters of Suspense in Conversation with David Morrell, author of Murder as a Fine Art and Inspector of the Dead (Promenade 104B)

3-4 Keep Them in Their Places or Let Them Steal the Scenes: The Importance of Sidekicks with Marcia Clark, author of the Rachel Knight series (Seaview)

3-4 Murder in Cyberspace with Matthew Quirk, author of The 500, The Directive, and an forthcoming title for Mulholland Books (Regency B)

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 15

Mulholland Books Bouchercon 2014

click to enlarge

Come by the hospitality suite to join Mulholland’s authors for coffee and pastries! We’ll be giving away free advance copies of new books by Sebastian Rotella, David Morrell, Richard Lange, Malcolm Mackay, C.J. Sansom, Duane Swierczynski, and Thomas O’Malley and Douglas Purdy. Follow us on Twitter or Instagram @mulhollandbooks to find out when specific books will be given away…or take a chance and come by the Seaview Rotunda to see what’s on offer! You won’t walk away empty-handed…or empty-bellied.

8:00-8:30 Duane Swierczynski will sign and give away galleys of his forthcoming novel, Canary, in the Seaview Rotunda hospitality suite. We’ll also have some extremely limited edition Canary pins to hand out.

8:30-8:50 Author Focus on Ralph Pezzullo, co-writer with Don Mann of the Hunt series of SEAL Team Six novels (Harbor C)

8:30-10:30 Men of Mystery with David Morrell and Matthew Quirk (Promenade 104BC)

11:00-11:30 Sebastian Rotella will sign and give away galleys of his forthcoming novel, The Convert’s Song, in the Seaview Rotunda hospitality suite.

11:30-12:00 David Morrell will sign and give away galleys of his forthcoming De Quincey novel, Inspector of the Dead, in the Seaview Rotunda hospitality suite.

1:30-2:30 Ordinary Guys Driven to Extraordinary Lengths with Richard Lange, author of Angel Baby and Sweet Nothing (Regency C). We’ll be giving away free advance copies of Sweet Nothing at Lange’s post-panel signing!

4:30-5:30 A Conversation with Michael Connelly and Sebastian Rotella (Promenade 104BC). Rotella is the author of Triple Crossing and the forthcoming novel, The Convert’s Song.

4:30-5:30 Make Ours Noir: Why We Love the Genre with Duane Swierczynski (Seaview)

4:30-5:30 Screen to Prose with Derek Haas, author of The Right Hand (Regency D)

SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 16

8:30-9:30 Cross-Cultural Crimes with Sebastian Rotella (Seaview)

8:30-9:30 Close Enough for Government Work with Derek Haas (Regency BC)

The post Mulholland Books at Bouchercon 2014 appeared first on Mulholland Books.

Oct 072014
 

The post Start Reading one of October’s Scariest Books: Brood by Chase Novak appeared first on Mulholland Books.

Brood by Chase NovakPoor Adam and Alice Twisden. Those twins have been through a lot—the death of their parents, the decimation of their childhood home. Years have passed since the events of Breed, and the twins’ aunt, Cynthia, wants to make things right, starting with the cleanup of the Twisdens’ Manhattan townhouse. Only, as you’ll read in Brood’s opening pages below, cleaning up is a tall order.

PROLOGUE

They were not here to clean up a crime scene. That grisly work had been accomplished two years ago by RestorePro, when the town house on Sixty-Ninth Street was closer to hell’s ninth circle than it was to its former incarnation—a stylish, impeccable, historically correct Upper East Side town house, one of the few left in New York City that had remained in the same family since its construction. Its last owner had been Alex Twisden, who had lived there his entire life, first as a child, then as a playboy, then as a corporate lawyer obsessed with his work, then as a somewhat reclusive bachelor, then as the newly wed husband of a beautiful younger woman named Leslie Kramer, then as the father of twins, and, finally, stemming from the fertility treatments he and Leslie endured in order to procreate, as a kind of beast for which neither science nor folklore has a name.

RestorePro’s workers, decked out in muck boots, respirators, and HAZMAT suits, had swooped in. Of course, the worst
thing about the cleanup was the blood, the hair, the fur, the bones, and the teeth, the parts of bodies for which neither Alex nor Leslie had a taste—they both eschewed ears, and found feet as a rule inedible. But there was a lot more to do than simply remove the evidence showing that for a time the elegant old house had been an abattoir. There was disinfecting to be done. There were odors to be dispelled and others that could only be covered up. There were scratches in the plaster, claw marks deeply grooved into the wooden floors. There were piles of smashed furniture—it looked as if crazed vandals had gotten into the storeroom of Sotheby’s before an antiques auction. Once-precious Blackthorn wallpaper, brought into the house by William Morris himself, hung in long drooping curls. Sconces had been torn from the walls; sofas had become public housing for all manner of rodents. RestorePro’s motto was No One Will Know, but though the workers did their job diligently, and did not stint on labor or time, the house they left behind when they finally got to the end of their contract still bore the ineffable marks of a place where something hideous had happened. You did not have to believe in the spirit world to sense that an aura of misery and doom hung over the place, even after it had been scrubbed clean.

Two years passed. If the house was haunted, the ghosts had it to themselves. The doors were locked. The shutters were closed. The electricity and the gas were disconnected. Alex’s estate paid the taxes on the place, though his once-sizable fortune had been severely compromised in the ten years between the fertility treatments in Slovenia and his sudden bone-crunching death in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where he was struck down by a Fifth Avenue bus. (Leslie’s violent death—more clearly by her own design—came shortly after, on a tarmac at the Ljubljana Airport.) Alex Twisden’s sister wanted nothing to do with the place, and though Leslie’s sister, Cynthia Kramer, an antiques dealer herself, had always had a love for the house that bordered on lust, she was not in line to inherit it. It really belonged to Alex and Leslie’s twins, Adam and Alice, but they were only ten years old when their parents died and had been left to float unhappily through the troubled, murky waters of New York’s foster-care system.

Their mother’s will had been quite clear on the subject: the twins were to go to her sister, Cynthia. But the law moved slowly, following its own maddening path, and two years passed before Cynthia had a date in Surrogate Court to finalize her adoption of the children. She would move from San Francisco to New York, and the twins would be restored to their old home—a site of countless terrifying nights, but nevertheless the only real home they had ever known.

Cynthia did not know these children very well, but she was thrilled to suddenly have an opportunity to be a mother, a chance she would have said, even recently, was as remote as her becoming secretary of state or a rock star. She granted that, once upon a time, Alex and her sister had been loving parents to the twins, but the last year or two with their parents had been terror-filled, and the time in foster care, well, who knew what damage that had done to them? Cynthia accepted the fact that the twins would need rehabilitation, a lot of it. Therapy perhaps. Tons of love, for sure.

She had tons of love.

And more where that came from. She had never been more certain of anything in her entire life. She could and would love these children back to health. She would return to them their birthright—to be well educated, to be safe, to be cared for, and to live in their beautiful house.

And so, as the wheels of the legal system slowly turned, Cynthia presided over the final renovations of the house on Sixty-Ninth Street from the opposite coast, organizing the whole thing via e-mails, phone calls, and Skype from her shop in Pacific Heights. There were light fixtures to be torn out and replaced, a kitchen to be modernized, nine bathrooms to be redone, some in need of a little twenty-first-century touch-up, some needing . . . everything. There was furniture to purchase, windows to be replaced and curtained or shuttered; there was flooring so brutally scarred that it needed to be torn up and replaced, and there were sixteen rooms that needed repainting.

The most pressing job, however, was the cellar. It was here that Alex and Leslie kept their tragic menagerie, the cats and dogs, some bought at pet shops, some “rescued” from various shelters in the tristate area. The cages and cramped runs in which these doomed beasts were once confined had to be removed, and all evidence of their ever having existed had to be completely erased. The cages were heavy and had been bolted into the cellar’s stone walls. Mack Flaherty, the contractor overseeing the entire job, had saved the cellar for last, and to make certain it was finished on time—Cynthia was due in New York in a week—he hired more men. They worked fourteen-hour days to get the job done. A few of the workers heard the squeak and scratch of rodents in the walls, but it was in nobody’s best interest to admit to it. The finish line was in sight. Cynthia was on her way. Let’s get ’er done, was the mantra; all the guys were saying it. Let’s get ’er done.

The post Start Reading one of October’s Scariest Books: Brood by Chase Novak appeared first on Mulholland Books.

Oct 042014
 

The post What Do You Do With A Pile Of Jim Thompson Books? appeared first on Mulholland Books.

We sent Rob Hart, the associate publisher of MysteriousPress.com, all 25 of the Jim Thompson paperbacks that we reissued in August. He wrote in to report on what he did with them.

Working in publishing comes with a few perks.

Say, for example, you’re grabbing breakfast with a pal and you profess your love for Jim Thompson. Turns out, that pal masterminded the re-release of a good portion of Thompson’s oeuvre in paperback and eBook.

Then one day you come home from work to find this pile of beauties sitting on your doorstep: Pile of Jim Thompson books

That is a lot of Jim Thompson. And it begs the question: What exactly does one do with such a giant pile of books? Not wanting to miss an opportunity, I came up with a couple of ideas…

Post a picture of the stack to Facebook so that your friends will seethe with jealousy. Rob Hart Facebook chat

Use them to get to hard-to-reach spots… like a locked window. Jim Thompson stepladder

Load them into a pillowcase. They’re softer than locks, but still good at delivering a message, without the risk of breaking bones. Jim Thompson is not soft.

They’re great for smuggling weapons. Jim Thompson weapons

Use them to weigh down a gas pedal. This is especially helpful if you need a car to go over a cliff and then explode so that any lingering trace evidence will be burned up. Jim Thompson on the gas pedal

Read them! A Swell-Looking Babe

Thompson rakes his fingernails across your soul. I mean that in the best way possible.

I remember my first: Pop. 1280, recommended to me by a writing instructor. It’s a slim volume, and such a slow burn. The narrator, Sheriff Nick Corey, comes off as a buffoon—at least, in the beginning. But as the story shambles forward, you learn there’s something very dark beating under the floorboards of Corey’s soul. To say any more would be a disservice to those who haven’t read it. Luckily, while it’s not pictured here, it’s one of the 25 Thompson books re-released by Mulholland.

I’m not going to pretend like I’m not jealous—I would have loved to have these books available in our catalogue of backlist titles at MysteriousPress.com. But I’m happy to see that they’ll be more easily accessible to a new generation of readers. Thompson transcends genre and is truly one of history’s great writers. His prose is so immediate, his descent into the depths of the human condition so complete, he’s one of those writers who deserves to be read.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some reading to do…

Rob Hart is associate publisher at MysteriousPress.com and class director at LitReactor. He is the author of The Last Safe Place: A Zombie Novella, and his debut novel, New Yorked, will be released by Polis on June 9. Learn more at his website, www.robwhart.com

The post What Do You Do With A Pile Of Jim Thompson Books? appeared first on Mulholland Books.

Aug 202014
 

The post Start Reading Confessions by Kanae Minato appeared first on Mulholland Books.

Minato_Confessions

Between household chores, Kanae Minato wrote a multi-million-copy international bestseller that’s now being hailed as “the Gone Girl of Japan” (Steph Cha, Los Angeles Times) and praised as an “implacable, relentless” and “stunning” read (Tom Nolan, Wall Street Journal). CONFESSIONS is now available in bookstores and from e-tailers everywhere.

Once you finish your milk, please put the carton back in the box. Make sure you return it to the space with your number on it and then get back to your desk. It looks like everyone is just about done. Since today is the last day of the school year, we will also be marking the end of “Milk Time.” Thanks to all of you for participating. I also heard some of you wondering whether the program would be continuing next year, but I can tell you now that it won’t. This year, we were designated as a model middle school for the Health Ministry’s campaign to promote dairy products. We were asked to have each of you drink a carton of milk every day, and now we’re looking forward to the annual school physicals in April to see whether your height and bone mass come in above the national averages.

Yes, I suppose you could say that we’ve been using you as guinea pigs, and I’m sure this year wasn’t very pleasant for those of you who are lactose intolerant or who simply don’t like milk. But the school was randomly selected for the program, and each classroom was supplied with the daily milk cartons and the box to hold them, with cubbyholes for your carton to identify each of you by seat number; and it’s true that we’ve kept track of who drank the milk and who didn’t. But why should you be making faces now when you were drinking the milk happily enough a few minutes ago? What’s wrong with being asked to drink a little milk every day? You’re about to enter puberty. Your bodies will be growing and changing, and you know drinking milk helps build strong bones. But how many of you actually drink it at home? And the calcium is good for more than just your bones; you need it for the proper development of your nervous system. Low levels of calcium can make you nervous and jumpy.

It’s not just your bodies that are growing and changing. I know what you’ve been up to. I hear the stories. You, Mr. Watanabe, you grew up in a family that owns an electronics shop, and I know you’ve figured out how to remove most of the pixilation on adult videos. You’ve been passing them along to the other boys. You’re growing up. Your minds are changing as quickly as your bodies. I know that wasn’t the best example, but what I mean is, you’re entering what we sometimes call the “rebellious period.” It’s a time when boys and girls tend to be touchy, to be hurt or offended by the least little thing, and when they’re easily influenced by their environment. You’ll begin to imitate everyone and everything around you as you try to figure out who you are. If you’re honest, I suspect many of you will recognize these changes in yourselves already. You’ve just seen a good example: Up until a few moments ago most of you thought of your free milk as a benefit. But now that I’ve told you it was an experiment, your feelings about the milk have suddenly changed. Am I right?

Still, there’s nothing too odd about that—it’s human nature to change your mind, and not just in puberty. In fact, the teachers have been saying that your class is actually a good bit calmer and better behaved than the usual group. Maybe we have the milk to thank for that.

But I have something more important I wanted to tell you today. I wanted you to know that I’ll be retiring at the end of the month. No, I’m not moving to a new school, I’m retiring as a teacher. Which means that you’re the last students I’ll ever teach, and I’ll remember you for as long as I live.

Settle down now. I appreciate your response—especially those of you who actually sound as though you’re sorry to hear I’m leaving—what? Am I resigning because of what happened? Yes, I suppose so, and I’d like to take some time today to talk to you about that.

*

Now that I’m retiring, I’ve been thinking again about what it’s meant to me to be a teacher.

I didn’t enter this profession for any of the usual reasons—because I myself had a wonderful teacher who changed my life or anything like that. I suppose you could say I became a teacher simply because I grew up in a very poor family. From the time I was little, my parents told me they could never afford to send me to college—and that it would have been waste to send a girl anyway—but I suppose that made me want to go all the more. I loved school and I was a good student. When the time came, I received a scholarship—perhaps because I was so poor—and enrolled at the national university in my hometown. I studied science, my favorite subject, and I started teaching at a cram school even before I graduated. Now I know you all complain about cram school, having to go right home from the regular school day to hurry through supper and run off to more classes that last late into the evening. But I’ve always thought you were incredibly lucky to have parents who cared enough to give you that extra opportunity.

At any rate, when I reached my senior year I decided to forgo graduate school—which might have been my first choice—and get a job as a teacher. I liked the fact that it was a secure career with a stable income, but there was an even bigger factor: The terms of my scholarship required me to repay the tuition money if I did not become a teacher. So without so much as a second thought, I took the test to obtain my license. Now I know this may cause some of you to question my motives for becoming a teacher, but I can assure you I have always tried to do the very best job I could. Lots of people fritter away their lives complaining that they were never been able to find their true calling. But the truth is that most of us probably don’t even have one. So what’s wrong, then, with deciding on the thing that’s right in front of you and doing it wholeheartedly? That’s what I did, and I have no regrets.

Now, some of you may be wondering why I chose to teach middle school rather than high school. I guess you could say that I wanted to be on the “front lines,” so to speak. I wanted to teach students who were still in the middle of their compulsory education. High school students have the option of quitting school, so their attention can be divided. I wanted to work with students who were still completely committed to their education, who had no other choice—that was as close to a true calling as I could find. It may be hard to believe, but there was a time when I was passionate about this work.

Mr. Tanaka and Mr. Ogawa—that’s not a funny part of my story.

I became a middle-school teacher in 1998, and my first position—on-the-job training, really—was at M Middle School. I was there three years and then took a leave of absence for a year before coming here to S Middle School. I found I enjoyed being away from the bigger cities in the prefecture, and this has been a pleasant, relaxed place to work. This is my fourth year here, so I’ve worked as a teacher for only seven years total.

I know you’ve been curious about M Middle School. Masayoshi Sakuranomi teaches there, and you’ve probably seen him on TV recently….Please settle down, everyone. Is he that famous? Do I know him? Well, we worked together for three years, so I suppose you could say I do, but in those days he wasn’t such a celebrity. They’ve made him out to be a super-teacher, and he’s in the news so often that I suspect you know more about him than I do.

What’s that? You don’t know the story, Mr. Maekawa? Don’t you watch TV? All right, I’ll tell you. Sakuranomi was the leader of a gang when he was in middle school, and when he was a sophomore in high school he assaulted a teacher. He was expelled and left the country, and for the next few years he apparently wandered around the world doing all sorts of dangerous things and getting into trouble. He witnessed war and other violent conflicts, and he lived among people suffering from extreme poverty. From those experiences, he came to realize the error of his ways and regret his violent past. He returned to Japan, passed his high school equivalency test, and entered a prestigious university. After graduating, he became a middle school English teacher. It’s said that he chose to teach middle school because he wanted to help students avoid the kinds of mistakes he had made when he was that age. A few years ago he started spending his evenings in the video-game centers and bookstores where students get into trouble after school. He would seek them out one by one, talking to them about self-respect and offering them a chance to start over. He was so persistent he acquired the nickname Mr. Second Chance, and they even made a TV documentary about him. He published books and expanded the scope of his work, trying to reach more students—what’s that? You heard all that on TV last week? Well, my apologies to those of you who already know the story….What? You’re right, I left out an important point. At the end of last year, when Sakuranomi was barely thirty-three years old, his doctor told him he had only a few months to live. But instead of feeling sorry for himself, he decided to devote his remaining time to his students. So now they’ve given him a new nickname: the Saint. You seem to know all about it, Mr. Abe. What’s that? Do I admire Sakuranomi? Do I want to be like him? Those are tricky questions. I suppose you could say I want to learn from his life—but only the latter half.

But I can see what an impression he’s made on some of you, and it makes me realize that I may have been an inadequate teacher in certain ways, especially compared to someone with his total dedication. As I said before, when I first became a teacher I wanted to do the best job I could. If one of my students had a problem, I would ignore my lesson plan and try to get the class to solve it together. If a student ran out of the room, even right in the middle of class, I would go after him. But at some point I started to realize that no one is perfect—me least of all. And when you tell a young person something with all the authority of a teacher, you actually risk amplifying the trouble. I began to feel that there was nothing more self-indulgent and foolish than forcing my opinions on my students. In the end, I worried I was simply condescending to the very people I should have been respecting and trying to help. So after my leave of absence, when I started work here at S Middle School, I laid down a couple of new ground rules for myself: First, I decided I would always address my students politely and use Mr. and Miss before their names, and second, I would treat them as equals. These seem like small things, but you’d be surprised how many students noticed right away.

Noticed what, you ask? I suppose they noticed how it made them feel to be treated with respect. You hear so much about abusive families that you might think that all children are being persecuted at home. But the truth is that most children these days are coddled and spoiled. Their parents bow and scrape and beg them to study, to eat their supper, whatever. Which may be why children show so little respect in return, why they talk to adults in the same tone of voice they use with their friends. And a lot of teachers even play up to this—consider it a badge of honor to be given a nickname or to be addressed informally by their students in class.

That’s what they see on TV, after all, with all those shows about popular teachers who are “buddies” to their students. I’m sure you know how the plot goes—a popular teacher has trouble with one particular class, but out of the conflict a deep trust develops between them. And when the end credits roll, the rest of the school and the teacher’s other classes have vanished and it’s as though the teacher’s there for that one group of troublemakers alone. Even in class, the TV teacher talks about his personal life and delves into the problem student’s most intimate feelings. Do the rest of you want to hear all this? Oh yes, of course we do. Then some serious student gathers the courage to ask about the meaning of life…and then the drivel continues. In the last scene, the serious student usually ends up apologizing to the troublemaker for having been insensitive…which might be fine for TV, but how about in real life? Have any of you ever had a personal issue that seemed so pressing that you wanted to interrupt class to talk about it? There’s too great an emphasis placed on the sheep gone astray. Personally, I have more respect for the serious student, the one who never got into trouble in the first place. But those kids never get the starring roles, either on TV or in real life. It’s enough to make the well-behaved student doubt the value of his efforts.

*

People often talk about the sense of trust that develops between a teacher and her students. When my students started getting cell phones, I began to receive text messages saying things like: “I want to die” or “I have no reason to live”—cries for help. They often came in the middle of the night—two or three o’clock in the morning—and I have to admit I was tempted to ignore them. But of course I never could. That would have been betraying our “sense of trust.”

Of course, teachers also started getting much more malicious messages. A young male teacher got a text asking for his help. The sender said her friend was in trouble and asked him to come to the entrance of a seedy hotel in the center of town. Now, you might think he should have been a little more cautious, but he was young and earnest and he hurried off to help—only to be photographed with the girl in said compromising location. Her parents showed up at the school the next day, the police got involved, and it turned into a major incident. His fellow teachers knew, of course, that the poor fellow had simply been tricked. We knew because he had told us that he was transgender—he had been born with the body of a man but he was actually a woman. Even under these circumstances, however, we saw no reason to reveal the truth. The young man himself, however, was determined to defend his honor as a teacher, and he ended up telling his students and their parents. But this whole tragedy—and the disastrous outcome for the teacher—had started from almost nothing. From a student’s hurt feelings at having been told to stop talking during class.

What? Was the student ever punished? Of course not. On the contrary, the teacher and the school were blamed—how could they expose impressionable young people to sexual deviants…or gays…or even single mothers like myself? The parents ignored what their own daughter had done and blamed the school, and in the end they won—though I’m not sure it’s ever appropriate to talk about winners and losers when it comes to education. The teacher? He was transferred last year and teaches at another school now, as a woman.

I know it’s an extreme example, but these kinds of accusations get made all the time, and for male teachers they’re very difficult to disprove. Since that incident, we’ve made it a policy to have a female teacher go in place of a male teacher when he has to meet with a female student, and vice versa. That’s also why we have two male and two female teachers for each grade. If one of you boys were to ask me to meet you somewhere, I would immediately get in touch with Tokura-sensei from the A Class and ask him to go in my place; and if something happened involving a girl from the A Class, Tokura-sensei would contact me. You hadn’t realized? There was never an announcement made, but we thought you’d figure it out for yourselves.

So now you boys are probably wondering whether it’s even worth contacting me when you’re really in trouble if Tokura-sensei is going to show up anyway? What’s that, Mr. Hasegawa? Yes, I remember when you had that problem in gym class. You told me it was serious, but in the bigger scheme of things it was quite minor. In fact, I doubt it’s more than a few times a year when one of you really needs me. I’m sure when you text me saying you want to die, you truly believe on some level that “life has no meaning,” as you all seem to like to say. And I’m sure that from your own self-absorbed point of view, you feel as though you’re all alone in the great wide world. That your troubles are completely overwhelming. But I have to say that I’m less interested in catering to your adolescent whims and more concerned that you grow up someday to be people who are capable of considering the feelings of others—for example, the feelings of the person who receives such a thoughtless message in the middle of the night. To be honest, I doubt that anyone who was truly despondent, who was actually considering doing something drastic, would send an email to announce the fact to her teacher.

*

You may have guessed by now that I was never the sort of teacher who thought about her students twenty-four hours a day. There was always someone more important to me—my daughter, Manami. As you know, I was a single mother. Shortly before Manami’s father and I were planning to be married, I learned that I was pregnant. We were a little disappointed that it had turned into a “shotgun wedding,” as they say, but the truth is we were delighted at the prospect of having a baby. I began getting prenatal care, and we decided it would make sense for my fiancé to have a physical as well. Quite unexpectedly, the tests revealed that he was suffering from a terrible disease, and all talk of the wedding stopped at that point. Because of the illness? Of course, that was the reason. Was it hard for him to accept? I’m sure it was, Miss Isaka. And of course some couples go ahead and get married even though one of them is ill. They choose to face the problem together. But what would you do in this situation? What would you do if you found out your boyfriend or girlfriend was infected with HIV?…HIV—the human immunodeficiency virus—better known as AIDS. But most of you already know all about this from the novel you read for your summer project. So many of your book reports said that you had cried at the ending that I decided to read it for myself. For the few of you who chose another book, it’s about a girl who contracts HIV while working as a prostitute and eventually develops AIDS and dies.

What’s that? You don’t think the story is that simple? You found the woman—the heroine—more sympathetic than I made her sound? I can understand that, but if you sympathized with the girl in the book, why did so many of you push your chairs back just now when I told you what happened with my fiancé? If you’re so sympathetic to people with AIDS, why did you move away when you found out that the teacher standing in front of you had sex with someone infected with HIV?

You look particularly uncomfortable, Miss Hamazaki, sitting here in the front row, but there’s no need to hold your breath. HIV is not spread through the air. The fact is you can’t catch AIDS from most kinds of physical contact—not from shaking hands or coughing or sneezing, not from the bath or the swimming pool, not from sharing dishes or from mosquito bites or from your pets. In general, not even from kissing. You can’t get AIDS from living in close contact with an infected person, and no one has ever caught it simply by being in the same class with someone who was infected—though I know the book didn’t mention any of that. And I apologize for keeping you in suspense—but I’m not infected either. Don’t look so shocked. It’s true that sexual intercourse is one way of spreading HIV, but not every act of intercourse results in infection.

I was tested during my pregnancy and the results were negative, but because that seemed so hard to believe, I was retested several times. It was only later, when I learned the real infection rate from intercourse, that I understood why I had escaped, but I won’t tell you that figure since I know how easily influenced you are by statistics. If you want to know, you’re free to look it up yourselves.

My fiancé contracted HIV overseas, during a wild period in his life when he hadn’t cared much what happened to him. I’m afraid I found it difficult to accept this part of his past. It had been a terrible shock to learn that the man I was planning to marry was infected with HIV, and despite the tests I continued to worry that I was infected, too. Even after I was sure that I was safe, I lay awake at night worrying about the baby in my belly. While I never stopped respecting my lover, I have to say that at times I truly hated him for what he’d done. And I suppose he could sense that. He apologized to me repeatedly and pleaded with me to go ahead and have the baby. But I have to say that the thought of ending the pregnancy never crossed my mind. Irrespective of politics, it felt like murder to me.

I should also tell you that my fiancé didn’t dissolve into self-pity after learning he had AIDS. On the contrary, he seemed to feel that he was simply suffering the consequences of his actions, and he was always careful to distinguish between his situation and that of hemophiliacs and others who had contracted the virus through no fault of their own. Still, I can’t imagine the despair he must have been feeling.

Eventually I realized I’d been wrong—partly because I so much wanted my baby to have a father—and I told him that we should go through with the wedding, that as long as we both understood the situation, we would find a way to face the problem. But he refused quite stubbornly. He was strong-willed, and he was absolutely determined to put the child’s happiness above all else. Prejudice against people with HIV is terrible in Japan—if you want proof, just remember how you all held your breath a moment ago when you thought I was infected. Even if the child turned out to be HIV-negative, how would she be treated when it was learned that the father had AIDS? If she made friends, would their parents forbid them to play with her? When she was old enough to go to school, would the other children—or even the teachers—mistreat her and try to force her out of the cafeteria or gym class or anywhere they thought a problem might occur? Of course, a child with no father can also experience prejudice, but the challenges are much less serious and she has a much better chance of finally winning acceptance. At any rate, we decided to call off the wedding. I was left to raise our daughter alone.

After she was born, Manami was tested and turned out to be HIV-negative as well. You can’t imagine how relieved I was. I made up my mind to give her the best care a mother could, to protect her at all costs, and I poured every ounce of my love into her. If you were to ask me which was more important, my students or my daughter, I would have answered without a moment’s hesitation that my daughter was far more important. Which was, of course, only natural.

Manami asked me about her father only once. I told her that he was working very hard, so hard he couldn’t come see her. And this was, in fact, quite true. Having given up the right to call himself Manami’s father, he had thrown himself into his work as though the rest of his life depended on it.

Manami, however, is no longer with us.

*

When Manami turned one, I put her into day care and returned to teaching. In the city, day care centers will keep a child until late into the evening, but out here in the countryside, even extended care ends at six o’clock. So I consulted a placement service for seniors looking for part-time work and found Mrs. Takenaka. She lives just behind the school swimming pool. Yes, that’s right, the house with the big black dog named Muku. I’m sure some of you have fed Muku your leftovers from lunch through the fence.

At four o’clock when the day care center closed, Mrs. Takenaka would go to get Manami and keep her for me until I finished work. The two of them grew very attached to one another. Manami loved Mrs. Takenaka and called her Grannie, and she loved Muku, too, and was very proud of the fact that she was often given the job of feeding him. This arrangement continued for three years, but at the beginning of this year, Mrs. Takenaka fell ill and went into the hospital.

Because we had been so close, I felt uncomfortable looking for a replacement simply because she was laid up for a few weeks, so I decided that I would go get Manami from the day care center myself until Mrs. Takenaka got well. In general this worked well enough, since they were willing to keep Manami until six o’clock and I was usually able to wrap things up at school by then. But on Wednesdays, our faculty meetings often went later, so on those days I would get Manami at four o’clock and have her wait for me in the nurse’s office. Miss Naitō and Miss Matsukawa, you often played with her while she was there, didn’t you? I’m truly grateful to you for that. She loved those afternoons. She told me that you girls said she looked like her favorite cartoon character, Snuggly Bunny. She couldn’t have been more delighted.

Please don’t cry, girls. Those are happy memories.

Manami loved rabbits, and she loved anything that was soft and fluffy. So of course she was crazy about Snuggly Bunny—though in that she was no different from most of the girls in Japan, even those in high school. Just about everything she owned—her backpack, her hankies, her shoes, even her socks, had his little face printed on it. She would climb up on my lap every morning with her little Snuggly Bunny hair bands and ask me to make her look like Bunny, and on weekends when we went shopping, she would always spot some new sort of Snuggly Bunny product that made her eyes sparkle.

About a week before Manami died, we had gone out to the shopping center. There was a Valentine’s display with all kinds of chocolate, including a whole selection with especially cute packaging, probably for girls to give to one another instead of to boys. Manami was drawn to the display and immediately spotted a Snuggly Bunny–shaped bar of white chocolate that came in a Snuggly Bunny–shaped fuzzy pouch. Of course, she wanted me to buy it for her, but we had a rule that she could only buy one item when we went shopping, and I’d already bought her a Snuggly Bunny sweatshirt that day—the pink one she was wearing the day she died. I told her she could get the chocolate bunny the next time we came shopping and began to lead her away from the candy.

Normally she would have followed me quietly enough. But for some reason that day was different. She sat down on the floor in the middle of the store and began to cry, telling me that she didn’t want the sweatshirt and that I had to buy her the chocolate. But a rule is a rule, and I wasn’t about to let her get away with that kind of behavior. I told myself I would buy it for her another time, when I was alone, and give it to her on Valentine’s Day. I reminded her about our rule and told her that she needed to behave herself. As a mother, I’d had to learn that there was a clear difference between loving your child and spoiling her. But just then Mr. Shitamura happened to appear from somewhere. You had apparently been watching the whole thing, since you came up and offered your opinion without being asked. You seemed to think I was being unreasonable to deny Manami something that cost only ¥700. Fortunately, Manami was embarrassed to have you see her sitting on the floor having a tantrum, and she immediately calmed down and stood up. “Okay,” she said, puffing out those little cheeks, “but next time I’m getting it for sure.” Then she gave you a smile and a little wave and we left.

Of course, with Manami gone before Valentine’s Day ever came, I regret not buying her that chocolate every day.

The faculty meeting ended just before six o’clock that day. The school nurses attended the meeting, so their office was empty. But several of you girls were kind enough to look after Manami until the school closed at six, so she never complained about being bored or lonely, and she was always waiting patiently for me when I got out of the meeting. That day, however, she wasn’t in the office. I checked the restroom, but she wasn’t there either. It was just as after-school activities were winding up, and it occurred to me she might have gone to find some of you girls in your club rooms, so I wandered around the school looking for her, not particularly concerned at that point. I ran into Miss Naitō and Miss Matsukawa, and you told me that you’d gone to play with Manami in the nurse’s office around five o’clock but that she hadn’t been there. You’d thought she hadn’t come to school that day. Then you helped me look for her.

It was dark by then, but there were still a number of people in the school, and they all joined in the search that evening. Mr. Hoshino, you were the one who found her—after you’d finished with baseball practice. You said you hadn’t seen her that day but that you remembered seeing her once coming from the direction of the pool, and you went there with me to look for her. The gate was chained for the winter, so we climbed the fence, but the chain was loose enough to let someone as small as Manami slip through. The pool was full, even though swimming classes were over for the year. The water was cloudy and dark—it had been kept in case it was needed to fight a fire.

We found Manami floating on the surface. We pulled her out as quickly as we could, but her body was icy and her heart had stopped. Still, I continued to call her name and perform CPR. Despite the shock of seeing Manami’s body, Mr. Hoshino went right away to call the other teachers. Manami was transported to the hospital, where she was pronounced dead. The cause of death was determined to be drowning. Since there were no injuries or any sign that she’d been attacked, the police concluded that she had fallen in accidentally.

It was already dark when we found Manami and I was terribly upset, so there’s no reason I should have noticed this, but I did remember seeing Muku’s nose poking through the fence that separated Mrs. Takenaka’s yard from the pool. The police investigation turned up bread crumbs in that area, from the same sort of bread they served at Manami’s day care center. Several students testified that they had seen Manami in the vicinity of the pool, and it became clear that she had been in the habit of going there every week. The neighbors were taking care of Muku while Mrs. Takanaka was in the hospital, but Manami had no way of knowing that, and she may have thought that the dog would starve if she didn’t bring him the bread. She must have been worried that I would scold her if I found out, so she always went alone and tried to avoid being noticed. According to the students who had seen these little excursions, she was never gone more than ten minutes or so.

Of course, I had no idea about any of this. When I would ask her what she did while she was waiting for me, she’d give me a mischievous look and tell me she’d been playing with some of you girls. I should have realized then that she was hiding something and questioned her more. If I had, she might never have gone to the pool.

Manami died because I was supposed to be looking out for her and I wasn’t vigilant enough. I am truly sorry, too, for the shock it caused everyone here at the school. It’s been more than a month now, and I still reach out on the futon every morning, expecting to find Manami curled up next to me. When we went to sleep at night, she would always push up against me, making sure that we were touching somewhere; and if I pulled away to tease her, she would reach out toward me again. When I relented and took her hand, she would relax and drop off to sleep again. I find myself crying now each morning when I reach out and realize that I will never again feel her downy cheeks or her soft hair.

When I told the principal I would be resigning, he asked whether it was because of what happened to Manami—which is just what you were wondering earlier, Miss Kitahara. And it’s true that I’ve decided to resign because of Manami’s death. But it’s also true that under other circumstances I would probably have continued to teach in order to atone for what I’d done and to take my mind off my misery. So why am I resigning?

Because Manami’s death wasn’t an accident. She was murdered by some of the students in this very class.

Kanae Minato is a former home economics teacher and housewife who wrote CONFESSIONS, her first novel, between household chores. The book has sold more than three million copies in Japan, where it won several literary awards, including the Radio Drama Award, the Detective Novel Prize for New Writers, and the National Booksellers’ Award, and was adapted into an Oscar-short-listed film directed by Tetsuya Nakashima. Minato lives in Japan.

CONFESSIONS, translated from the Japanese by Stephen Snyder, is now available in bookstores across the country and e-tailers everywhere.

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